Microrover is named for SOJOURNER TRUTH

July 14, 1995

Above: Model of SOJOURNER in Univ. Arizona's Mars Garden

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Contact: Diane Ainsworth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          July 14, 1995


     On the 30th anniversary of Mars exploration, NASA has 
selected the name "Sojourner" for the first rover to explore the 
planet.  The 11.5-kilogram (25-pound), six-wheeled robotic 
explorer is now being readied for launch, and will roam across an 
ancient Martian flood plain after its companion lander, Mars 
Pathfinder, touches down on the surface on July 4, 1997.

     The U.S. spacecraft Mariner 4 ushered in the beginnings of 
humanity's detailed exploration of the Red Planet 30 years ago 
today when it flew by Mars at a distance of about 10,000 
kilometers (6,000 miles) on July 14, 1965, taking the first close-
up images of another planet.

     The name Sojourner was chosen for the Mars Pathfinder rover 
after a year-long, worldwide competition in which students up to 
18 years old were invited to select a heroine and submit an essay 
about her historical accomplishments.  The students were asked to 
address in their essays how a rover named for their heroine would 
translate these accomplishments to the Martian environment.

     Initiated in March 1994 by The Planetary Society of Pasadena, 
Calif., in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the 
contest got under way with an announcement in the January 1995 
issue of the National Science Teachers Association's magazine 
"Science and Children," which is circulated to 20,000 teachers and 
schools across the nation.

     Valerie Ambroise, 12, of Bridgeport, Conn., submitted the 
winning essay about Sojourner Truth, an African-American reformist 
who lived during the tumultuous era of the U.S. Civil War.  An 
abolitionist and champion of women's rights, Sojourner Truth, 
whose legal name was Isabella Van Wagener, made it her mission to 
"travel up and down the land," advocating the rights of all people 
to be free and the rights of women to participate fully in 
society. The name Sojourner was selected because it 
means "traveler."

     JPL scientists and engineers working on the Mars Pathfinder 
project and Planetary Society staff members reviewed the 3,500 
total entries received from all over the world, including essays 
from students living in Canada, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, 
Poland and Russia.  Nearly 1,700 of the essays were submitted by 
students aged 5 to 18 years old and met all of the qualifying 

     The selection of winners from this group by representatives 
of JPL and NASA Headquarters was based on several factors: the 
quality and creativity of the essay, taking into consideration the 
age of each contestant; the appropriateness of the name for a Mars 
rover; and the knowledge and understanding of the Pathfinder 
rover's mission conveyed in each essay.

     The second place prize winner was Deepti Rohatgi, 18, of 
Rockville, Md., who proposed naming the rover after Marie Curie, a 
Polish-born chemist who won the Nobel Prize in 1911 for her 
discovery of the elements radium and polonium.  The third place 
prize goes to Adam Sheedy, 16, of Round Rock, Texas, who chose the 
late astronaut Judith Resnik as his namesake for the new rover.

     Other popular names included Sacajewea, who explored North 
America with Lewis and Clark; Amelia Earhart, one of the first 
female aviators; Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom; Harriet 
Tubman, a 19th-century African-American writer and political 
reformist; Greek goddesses Minerva and Atalanta; and Thumbelina, 
the tiny fairy tale character created by Hans Christian Andersen. 
     The Mars Pathfinder lander and rover will be launched in 
December 1996 aboard a Delta rocket and then will spend seven 
months cruising to Mars.  The mission will demonstrate a new, low-
cost way of entering a planetary atmosphere and landing through a 
combination of parachutes, rockets and shock-absorbing airbags 
designed to slow the spacecraft's descent and place it safely on 
the surface. Once Pathfinder lands and opens its exterior petals, 
the solar-powered rover will be sent off to explore the chemistry 
of rocks in the area and other features of the planet's rocky 

     Mars Pathfinder is part of NASA's Discovery program, a new 
generation of low-cost spacecraft designed to explore the solar 
system. The mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
for NASA's Office of Space Science and Office of Space Access and 
Technology, Washington, D.C.